Bailey Guns

"Your Car Is An Extension of Your Home" - Why that's not really true

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I'm seeing this more and more on this forum and I think many people really don't understand what it means in Colorado. That is to say, not much.

This is my understanding from law enforcement experience (I'm obviously not a lawyer so this free information is worth what you paid):

Yes, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your car. However, not nearly to the extent you do in your home. A car can legally be searched by an officer in a variety of circumstances, without a warrant:
  • Search incident to arrest
  • Inventory search of an impounded vehicle
  • Probable cause and to a lesser/limited scope, reasonable suspicion
  • Consent
  • Exigent/Emergency circumstances
  • Seizure of contraband in plain view (which might lead to a probable cause arrest/search)

Keep in mind, if your car is in a public location an officer can look into the car from the outside as much as he/she likes. That's very different from your home where you have a much higher expectation of privacy inside your home and in the curtilage of your home. In other words, if your car is parked on the street an officer could stop and look into it as much as he/she desired and potentially seize contraband in plain view. An officer could not walk on to your lawn and peer into a window of your home and then seize an item in plain view.

Also, the "extension of your home" theory doesn't apply to use of force. I hope everyone knows the "Make My Day" law applies only in a "dwelling" in Colorado. It doesn't generally apply to detached buildings that are not dwellings, places of business or vehicles. Obviously, you can still use force to protect yourself in your car but you won't have the legal protections you might in your home.

There are a couple of statutes that tell us we can carry a weapon in our cars for protection of self, others and property in Colorado. CRS 18-12-204 specifically states no permit is needed to carry a handgun, loaded or otherwise, visible or concealed, in your vehicle or other private means of conveyance, for any lawful reason including self defense. But not because your car is an "extension of your home".

Keep in mind passengers in a vehicle have an even lower degree of expectation of privacy than the operator/owner of the car might.

So, and this is just my opinion, I don't think it's a good idea to throw around the over-broad phrase "extension of your home" when you're talking about your car for lots of reasons. Not the least of which is because it really isn't true and just tends to confuse people.
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  1. theGinsue's Avatar
    Good info. Thanks for sharing.